The Top 5 Longreads of the Week

This week, we’re sharing stories from Washington City Paper, Astra Taylor and Sunaura Taylor, Leslie Jamison, Mark Pupo, and Madeleine Aggeler.

Here are five stories that moved us this week, and the reasons why.

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1. Paper, Cut

Various Authors | Washington City Paper | May 5th, 2022 | 12,400 words

Another day, another beloved print publication calling it quits. Washington City Paper, which nurtured such writing luminaries as Ta-Nehisi Coates, Katherine Boo, Jason Cherkis, and the late David Carr, has printed its last-ever physical edition. In a special package, veteran staffers describe what working at the alt-weekly meant to them. The anecdotes are spectacular. Sex workers in the newsroom lobby, looking to buy ads. A reporter getting punched by a guy named Casino. Final proofs being shipped to the printer via Greyhound bus. Editors pouring their hearts and souls into young writers’ copy. WCP will continue to publish online (and you can support its work), but not everyone in the city it covers has access to the internet. This bittersweet collection of memories stands as a testament to the unconscionable harm that late-stage capitalism and its attendant greed have done to local news. (Speaking of unconscionable harm, consider also reading Rebecca Traister’s fiery essay about how feckless Democrats and their “anemic” rhetoric helped usher America to the precipice of Roe v. Wade‘s reversal.) —SD

2. Our Animals, Ourselves

Astra and Sunaura Taylor | Lux | January 6th, 2022 | 6,846 words

In this thought-provoking essay published in January, Astra and Sunaura Taylor make a socialist feminist case for veganism, which can open outward into other calls for liberation and help us understand and be part of the paradigm shift that needs to happen to create a more egalitarian and sustainable society. Capitalism is about controlling bodies, they write, not just of humans but of nonhuman animals like cows and pigs. “While the trauma inflicted on people and animals … isn’t the same, it is interconnected. We are all caught in the same racist, sexist, colonial, and ecologically catastrophic capitalist system.” This is a call for cross-species solidarity and to consider veganism alongside other social justice movements on the left. It’s a tough read — particularly for people who consider themselves socialists, feminists, or animal advocates and continue to consume meat and dairy products — but an important one. —CLR

3. Dreamers In Broad Daylight: Ten Conversations

Leslie Jamison | Astra Magazine | April 27th, 2022 | 7,261 words

What do you daydream of? Justice? Love? Wealth? Fame? Peace and quiet? Something else entirely? In this terrific essay at Astra Magazine, Leslie Jamison explores the pleasure and release she feels in daydreaming as well as the shame and regret she can experience when her thoughts drift from the present to the future perfect. “My shame about daydreaming is the shame of solipsism and self-centered fantasy, the shame of turning from the banality of daily life toward the hollow calories of wish fulfillment, the shame of preferring the hypothetical to the actual…Restraint. Indulgence. Punishment. This triptych of impulses has structured my relationship to desire for so long: with food, booze, men.” —KS

4. The Ministers of Cheese

Mark Pupo | Toronto Life | April 25th, 2022 | 5,296 words

Mark Pupo has a vested interest in his subject matter — the Cheese Boutique — in this essay for Toronto Life. He freely admits, “For me, more than most any store, the Cheese Boutique delivers a blissful, calming dose of retail therapy.” However, his bias does not get in the way of a lovely narrative. The owners, the Pristines, were originally immigrants from Kosovo who managed to make a home on a “once lonely, ungainly street” that now attracts hordes of Land Rovers on the weekend, their drivers desperate for a cheese fix. It’s a joyful success story of a business that thrived even during the pandemic — by starting virtual cheese-making classes and adding a food truck — yet kept its family roots. Even though the shop attracts fancy customers (Dustin Hoffman is a visitor) and fancy prices, two generations of Pristines are still there seven days a week to run it. Come for the family story and stay for the luscious cheese descriptions: “You let it come to room temp, slice off the top rind, and spoon out the gooey inside (called the “paste”). The odor is nauseating—reminiscent of rot and ancient back alleys—but to the tastebuds it’s awesome. Mellow and buttery.” Yes, please! —CW

5. In the Court of the Liver King

Madeleine Aggeler | GQ | May 5th, 2022 | 3,054 words

At the nexus of Influencer and Extreme Fitness Bro lies Brian Johnson, a man who drags unholy amounts of weight through the Texas woods. A man who does burpees on crowded New York subway cars. A man who, along with his family, sleeps without mattresses in order to better mimic the behavior of his primal ancestors. A man who eats a pound of raw liver a day — yes, a day. It’s hard for me to type these words without laughing, yet the joy is nothing compared to that derived from reading Madeleine Aggeler’s rollicking profile of the man known to millions only as The Liver King. Will you leave feeling sorry for his poor kids, sparring in their mansion’s living room and taking a fork to pigs’ heads in some Lord of the Flies fever dream of prepubescence? For sure. But if a magazine is going to give multiple pages to a bearded madman and his paleolithic worldview, you could do a lot worse than this vivid (but still humanizing) portrait. And a word of warning to my vegetarian friends: maybe look for a text-only version, lest the many photos of glistening organs and animal parts drive you to apoplexy. —PR